Boris Johnson is 'very excited' to discover he is related to syphilitic 18th-century Swiss mummy
A syphilitic mummified corpse dating back to the 18th century has been identified as Anna Catharina Bischoff, the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of the foreign secretary.
Her body was most recently uncovered in 1975 in Basel’s Barfusser Church, where historically wealthy people were buried. The mummy was found in front of the altar, well-fed and wearing quality clothes, confirming for scientists that she came from a wealthy background.
Although the woman had been laid in a 16th-century coffin, there was no gravestone marking her name, making her identification difficult.
Traces of mercury, a common treatment between the 15th and 19th century for syphilis, were found in the woman, leading researchers to believe she died of poisoning. The highly-toxic substance was in fact more of a poison than a cure, though its presence allowed for the preservation of Bischoff’s corpse.
The mummy had first been uncovered in 1843 before being excavated once more in 1975. It was not until last year that scientists extracted DNA from the woman’s big toe, and compared it to samples of DNA taken from living members of the Bischoff family, subsequently identifying her as Anna Catharina Bischoff.
Researchers then set out to discover the genealogical tree of the woman. They found she had seven children, of whom only two survived. One of them, also named Anna, married a certain Christian Hubert Baron Pfeffel von Kriegelstein.
Five generations of von Pfeffels later, and Marie Luise von Pfeffel married Stanley Fred Williams.
Their daughter Yvonne married Osman Wilfred Johnson Kemal, and their son, Stanley Johnson, is Johnson’s father.
Anna Catharina was born in Basel in 1719 and spent most of her adult life in the French city of Strasbourg.
It was there that she contracted syphilis, while caring for patients affected by the disease.
Once Anna Catharina’s husband passed away, she returned to her hometown and started an intense treatment to cure the disease, but to no avail.
He previously told the BBC program 'Who Do You Think You Are?' that he was a “product of many countries” and described his von Pfeffel ancestors as “posh toffs.”
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